Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist

Archive forOctober, 2010 | back to home

28 October 2010

From Local Literacies I found Amateur Arts in the UK which quoted some stats from (Research Surveys of Great Britain & Arts Council of Great Britain, 1991) – see earlier post – and there I assumed the trail would go cold. What chance I could find an obscure 19 year old survey with no Google Scholar entry and a couple of mentions around the web? Yet hurrah! U of Leicester Library had it – a spiral bound report with lots of cross-tabulations in the back that were not discussed in the main text including exactly the stats I wanted! So without further ado, for the year 1991 some stats on proportions of UK adults (16+) and their propensity to write articles or stories but not as a profession.

Overall, 4% were writing stories/articles.

Education was, unsurprisingly, the factor that made the biggest difference. This chart shows percentages of writers by the age at which they finished education:

varies from 2% to 12%

Age seemed to play an important role as well, and not in the way I would have thought.

Varies between 8% and 2%

I would have expected an “up-tick” post retirement as people had time to write memoirs etc – though perhaps this is an effect of lower overall education levels of older people.

The last important factor was social class.
AB (Middle class) = 8%, C1 (lower middle class) = 6%, C2DE (working class) 2%

Region, gender, and disability status don’t seem to have been a factor – nor does being unemployed (though the overall proportion of people writing was low enough that it’s hard to be sure.

Now that I have a baseline for social composition of writers I hope that my future research will be able to see whether the availability of online outlets has changed any of this.

Research Surveys of Great Britain & Arts Council of Great Britain. (1991). RSGB Omnibus Arts Survey : report on a survey on arts and cultural activities in G.B. London: Arts Council of Great Britain.

26 October 2010
Filed under:Academia,new authorship at4:27 pm

Number of works of fiction published in UK 8022 (Children’s books 7,030) (BML 1994, quoted in Casey et al. 1996 p. 133)
Number of first time novelists published in the UK in 1990: 190 (Hutchison & Feist, 1991, p. 129)
“just 500 authors, less than half of 1 per cent, were responsible for a third of all sales.” (Prospect, Oct 2010) (presumably across all book categories)

“Both Jonathan Cape Ltd and William Heinemann Ltd, two of the best known names in fiction publishing, receive about 50 unsolicited letters of manuscripts each week from ‘unknown’ fiction writers. Heinemann no longer look at unsolicited manuscripts.” (Hutchison & Feist, 1991, p. 129)

Has the advent of the web and print on demand changed this? We’ll see…

Casey, B., Dunlop, R., & Selwood, S. (1996). Culture as commodity? : the economics of the arts and built heritage in the UK. London: Policy Studies Institute.
Hutchison, R., & Feist, A. (1991). Amateur arts in the UK. London: Policy Studies Institute.

25 October 2010

For a while now I have been looking for information on what proportion of people write “amateur” poetry or prose (outside of a school setting) and whether there is any evidence of change now that people can ‘publish’ themselves online rather than just having to stick the results in a drawer or struggle to get published professionally. Here at last is some data:

In the UK in 1991, people who practiced activity but not as a full-time profession:
2% were writing poetry, 4% making videos, 4% writing stories

Research Surveys of Great Britain & Arts Council of Great Britain. (1991). RSGB Omnibus Arts Survey : report on a survey on arts and cultural activities in G.B. London: Arts Council of Great Britain.

In 2007 14% of people who created a web page in the UK did so (at least in part) “to publish my own writing or music”.

De Rosa, C., Cantrell, J., Havens, A., Hawk, J., & Jenkins, L. (2007). Sharing, Privacy and Trust in Our Networked World.

15% of UK internet users (c. 10% of population) maintained a personal website in 2007. Ergo, perhaps 1.5% of people in the UK in 2007 were publishing their own writing or music online.

Dutton, W. H., & Helsper, E. (2007). The Internet in Britain: 2007.
Social networking is an even more interesting case because it is more widespread.

No figures are available from the OCLC report for the UK alone on social networking site use like Myspace but 22% of users from 6 countries said they used it at least somewhat “to express myself creatively with self-published materials” – and at least some of the 24% who “document my personal experiences and share with others” may be doing so more or less creatively. This was at an early stage in the diffusion of SNS use though – in 2007 only 17% of UK internet users had created an SNS profile. This has doubled since then according to Ofcom.

Ofcom. (2010). UK Adults’ Media Literacy.

So very roughly 7% of the UK adult population are using social networking sites to self-publish (though this presumably includes video and music as well as text).

I couldn’t finish without mentioning one more study about creative use of the internet – Hargittai, E., & Walejko, G. (2008). The Participation Divide: Content creation and sharing in the digital age. Information, Communication & Society, 11(2), 239 – 256. doi: 10.1080/13691180801946150

It has more detailed information about gender, SES and education and their relationship with creative activity online but is based on a survey of US undergraduates.

Pointers to further data (especially quantitative data) about creative writing on and offline would be gratefully received. This work is conducted as preparation for my next major research project on what I’m calling the “New Authorship” (more work on this will also be tagged “new authorship”).

If you like this sort of thing you will likely also like Gauntlett, D. (2011). Making is Connecting: The social meaning of creativity, from DIY and knitting to YouTube and Web 2.0. London: Polity Press. I am looking forward to reading more than just the samples available so far on the site!

19 October 2010

Trust-e, a private organization which promotes and monitors internet industry self-regulation, has produced a survey of US teens, social networks and privacy it entitled The Kids Are Alright. As its title suggests, its conclusions are broadly soothing. Facebook posted a status update about the report saying that it found “the majority of parents and teens understand how to protect their privacy and think their controls on Facebook are easy to use.” This is not true – it found that the majority of parents and teens believe or state that they understand how to protect their privacy. But as Sonia Livingstone’s work with teens and parents found (for example), teens may have difficulty understanding privacy settings without realising it and parents may underestimate the degree of risk their children encounter.

The trust-e survey did find that 18% of teens, “have been embarrassed or disciplined as a result of a posting”. 48% of parents and 41% of teens also did not agree that Facebook’s privacy settings are clear and easy to use, and the fact that 21% of teens never worry about their privacy when using Facebook should be a cause of concern not celebration. Other stats of note:
10% of parents admitted to secretly logging into their teens’ FB accounts to monitor their use.
10% of teens post things they would not want parents or teachers to see frequently or all the time
8% of teens accept all friend requests

13 October 2010

Alas I have not yet got a copy of Kevin Kelly’s latest book. I am looking forward to seeing it but not perhaps for reasons he would appreciate. Cory Doctorow says that Kevin Kelly suggests in his new book “humans cannot direct or prevent technology’s course, at least not in the long run”. If this is an accurate summary, then a) it makes a mockery of the subtitle of his book “how technology changes us and vice-versa” (emphasis mine) and b) it makes me want to get ahold of the book and maybe add it to a future course just in order to provide evidence that popular and well-respected thinkers take this point of view, which has been widely criticised in academic circles. In fact “technological determinist” is something of a dirty word (phrase?) in academic discourse. That’s not to say that technologies don’t have their own logics in my view, but they are expressed in different ways in different societies. Mind you I find the opposite, hard social constructivist line controversially laid out by Grint and Woolgar in, for example, “What’s Social about Being Shot?” is equally unpersuasive.

Here’s a brief example of why KK is wrong – why have we taken so long to put wheels on suitcases? Not because the technology to do so did not exist, nor because it would not have been useful. I wager it’s because it took the disappearance of servants and the increase in all forms of travel to make the difficulties in lugging around luggage socially important enough to make people start thinking of alternatives.

If you don’t want to buy “What Technology Wants”, there’s a blog posting by KK that seems to cover this part of his argument here.

via a review of the book by Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing

12 October 2010
Filed under:Personal at11:04 am

Pictures and video clips (P/V) taken in August > 200
P/V uploaded to computer and not subsequently deleted = 194 (1.1Gb)
P/V uploaded to Picasa Web Albums = 84 (max views of these friends-only pics 29, average c. 15)
P/V “favourited” in Picasa = 22
P/V from that month included in annual family roundup video = 6

(My public picture galleries are here (Picasa, recent) and here (Flickr, last updated 3 years ago)

Random public photo

From Things observed
8 October 2010

Storyful is a news agency based on an interesting idea that a lot of journalism scholars are talking up – journalists as curators, bringing together and highlighting the best news from social media. It is still in beta, so it’s perhaps premature to criticize the product but when I registered and went to take a look at the first story which interested me it had some flaws which indicate some of the potential problems with this kind of service.

Having recently visited Cambodia, the story on Cambodian child prostitution caught my eye. So what do I get? A prominent photo and trailer from a documentary on the subject which is (as far as I can tell) a product of the mainstream media. An introductory paragraph of information and claims, some of them quite controversial but without sourcing of any kind. A tweet from a Chicago-based comedian pointing to a related story – from the mainstream media. “Some informed opinion on the Cambodian sex industry” is two comments selected out of 84 youtube comments found on a two year old Al Jazeera news item. And lastly there are links to and excerpts from the Factbook on Global Sexual Exploitation and Human Rights Watch.

Leaving aside problems of design and implementation (which can be fixed) this suggests two linked problems. First, that because of digital divide and linguistic difficulties, it can be hard to find social media sources for news from outside the industrialized world and that as a result a lot of what one can find eventually links back to the work of (more or less) mainstream journalists rather than citizen journalists. Also see Gonzalez-Bailon (2009) on how the mainstream news organizations and those they link to get most online buzz and Paterson (2007) on how the online news environment is still dominated by output from two major news agencies.

This is not in any way to denigrate the work of those behind storyful and other projects – it’s just to point out that social media does not (yet?) provide would-be news providers easy-to-process rich seams of raw news material unless such material is on subjects that appeal to social media users (see Thelwall 2010) and in countries where social media use is widespread. What’s needed first is more citizen journalistic capacity building in developing countries by organizations like the World Service Trust, OneWorld and Global Voices and more and cheaper internet there (eg you can’t get decent citizen journalism out of the Central African Republic if broadband costs 40 times the average salary there).

PS UK readers may be interested that there is an (as far as I know unrelated) BBC Three programme about sex trafficking in Cambodia coming up next Thursday at 21:00.